The Comfort Level Of Our Preferences

Paralyzed by Choice - By John Hendrie

Are we on the edge of utopia or nervous breakdown? Most indicators point to substantive means to improve the Guest Experience, driven by electronics. Life is confusing enough, and I really do not like croutons or cucumbers with my salad. Swipe my loyalty card and Voila! No existential crisis here.

LRA Worldwide Ah, the comfort level of our preferences. Those who travel, particularly at the higher end, have their profiles known at the hotels they frequent – type of pillow, particulars for beverage, personal quirks.  Entertainers and athletes have specifics drawn into their contracts for their travel requirements.  On the local level, many of our providers know us very well – hanger, no box; Jack, straight up; cream, one sugar.  Has this translated to our favorite restaurants? Maybe.  Once again at the higher end, the Maitre d’ may know our name and alert our server to favorite wines and desserts.  But, typically, on the usual restaurant front, we take our chances on that Bill of Fare and hope for the best.

The Huffington Post ran an interesting piece on Ron Shaich, the CEO of Panera Bread, where he postulated on a potential trend and change in how we order our food – an opportunity to order our preferences rather than from that over-blown menu.  His premise, “Choice is good, more choice is better, everyone thinks that," Schwartz said. "But when people have a lot of choice, they get paralyzed instead of liberated. They often make worse decisions, and they end up less satisfied when they make good decisions.”

Today’ s diners watch their intake carefully, whether looking to vegan alternatives, calories, gluten.  Many are the “I want it my way” customers, and we have seen restaurant companies try to meet this need with make your own burgers, salad bars and the like.  Actually, most of us do have what we want in mind when we dine.  So, a complex dinner menu with those many pages really does not help us decide.  It makes us anxious.

The article also related some research.  One famous experiment performed by Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia Business School professor, offered, alternatively six and 24 different sample flavors of jam to customers at a supermarket. What they found was that people were more likely to buy the jam when they only had six options.  This phenomenon has proven to hold true in other arenas. Other research showed that the more choices people have when it comes to saving for retirement, the less likely they are to choose a plan at all.  These examples sound almost counter-intuitive.  Are we paralyzed by choice?

Well, Panera Bread has launched a $42 million overhaul, allowing diners to easily tweak their orders online or on tablets inside the store.   If you have specifications for the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, for example, swipe your Panera “My Rewards” card – customized order taking – mechanics at work!

Are we on the edge of utopia or nervous breakdown?  Most indicators point to substantive means to improve the Guest Experience, driven by electronics.  Life is confusing enough, and I really do not like croutons or cucumbers with my salad.  Swipe my loyalty card and Voila!  No existential crisis here.


LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit



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